Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blueberry Muffins and Being Present


I am days away from celebrating my one month anniversary at my new job and I could not be happier about how everything is going.
I love the church family that I am serving, I love my boss and co-workers, I love my role as lay minister more than I could have ever dreamed, and I love the ways it has benefited our family.
The whole experience has blessed me and my crew so very much, and I am grateful beyond words.



One of the ways that our family is benefiting is from my new schedule.
While I am working as many hours (and sometimes I will work many more  during Christmas and Holy Week etc.)  as I was before, they are arranged differently and are much more flexible. This pace and flexibility is exactly what I wished and prayed for over the past year, as it became increasingly evident to Sweet Man and I that something had to change in my work situation in order for me to keep my sanity, and be present to our family life.
 During all those discussions and prayers, I never thought that being a minister would be the solution that presented itself to our quandary, but thank goodness for surprises!


Ok, so what does this have to do with Blueberry Muffins? 
Well, one of the ways I wanted to be present for our family was to make breakfast's for the boys before school on a more consistent basis.
When I was a kid my mother made us some sort of homemade breakfast almost every morning during the school years. 
They weren't always fancy or even great (sorry Mom,) but they were there and so was she.
This year Wylie began High School and Miles began Middle School. Their time here at home is growing shorter by the day and I desperately don't want to miss it. 
I want to be here. I want to be present. 
So I am making them breakfast just like my mother did. 
Sometimes it's muffins like these, sometimes it's eggs and sausage, sometimes it's oatmeal. Sometimes its fancy and sometimes it's not very good. 
But regardless, I am there. 
Do they notice? 
Does it make a difference to them that they are eating eggs and muffins and not cereal? 
I have no idea. 
But it matters to me. 
 It may be a small thing to them, but it is a huge thing to me, and part of my job as the momma is to do what I think is important, even if they take it for granted.



Do I think that everyone should get up and make their kids a homemade breakfast? Nope. Not at all.
Do I think that you know the place where you need to show up and be present for your kids? 
Yep. 
And it probably something that would never hit my radar, and that is okay. 
You know your family and what they need and that is the only thing that matters.
Don't compare your parenting  or family life to others. 
That is a useless road to travel, and will only frustrate you more. I know. I have traveled it often.
But do fight for the change that you know is needed.
And take heart - if what your family needs right now seems impossible, don't give up. 
Keep an eye out for even the slightest, smallest sliver of an opportunity that will help turn things around. 
Be alert and tenacious in your search for a solution. It is out there. 
And know that I am praying that your life takes an unexpected, wonderfully surprising turn, allowing you to show up the way you want to show up for your kids, to do for your family what only you know in your gut needs to happen.

In the meantime, here is a muffin recipe that was really as yummy as it looked!






I have been looking for a great from-scratch blueberry muffin recipe for a while now, as I am trying to move away from prepared foods/box mixes. This one was recommended to me and it is easy and delicious!

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)
.
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. 
Add egg and beat well, then yogurt, sour cream, and lemon zest. 
Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. 
Mix until combined. 
Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. 
Gently fold in your blueberries. 
The dough will be very thick.
Add dough to muffin cups.
You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more, so you might only need 9 instead of 10 cups. 
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (minus the blueberry goo.)

Enjoy!
J

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Glampers


So you see, this one time I went glamping.
And it was a blast.
(Mostly.)


As luck would have it I went glamping (glamour + camping)  on the very weekend that my period showed up (sorry if that is an over-share. It is what it is.) And at my declining age, getting my period is less than fun. You might say it is hell-ish.


Also, as luck would have it I went glamping on the first weekend that it was truly hot in Arkansas after such a mild and lovely Spring.

My first-world pampered self was not prepared for such a dreadful combination as this.

But I perservered.
(Mostly.)


Thankfully luck would also have it that I was with some amazing gals who didn't seem to hold it against me when I passed out on my top bunk in the middle of the afternoon out of sheer hormonal exhaustion and heat fatigue.



And thankfully, luck (well, really it was smart planning on all of our parts) would also have it we were camping only minutes away from Stephanie's house where she generously let us shower in her clean and private bathroom,  where I was able to help myself  to much-needed nausea meds after over-indulging in the cheese selection at the hottest moment of the day, and recoup for a few minutes in the air conditioning, all of which helped bring me back to life so that I could fully enjoy the remainder of the experience, drinking my fill of the Happy Camper Cocktail.



If you follow me on Instagram you can go back and look at all my #GlampingAr pics of the weekend to see pictures of all the fun we had - including a trip to Miss Fern's house, breakfast at Mather Lodge, and pictures from our Friday night Mexican Fiesta dinner.

Most of these pics however are from Saturday evening and they are styled to the hilt.
Why?
Because not only did we Glamp, but we modeled as well, and so did all our stuff....


You see, Steph's husband works for the State Parks Dept, and word had somehow traveled to headquarters about this mysterious "Arkansas Glamping" expedition of ours, and so always on the hunt for new ways to promote our amazing Arkansas State Parks (they really are amazing) their ad people asked if they could send a team out to do a photo shoot of all our glamping our fun.
Being a group of  bloggers, we all replied with a hearty "bring it on!"
And so they did.





Everyone "decorated" their own bunks (we stayed in Yurts!) and then we all pitched in on the rest of the areas.







All of these pictures are from Saturday evening, which turned out to be one of the most fun parts of the entire glamping adventure despite my initial bad attitude. Thanks to the cool breeze that appeared just in time, the magical refills of my mason jar with Happy Camper cocktails,  that glorious shower at Stephanie's right before the photo shoot began, and my amazing co-glampers who kept me laughing the entire time, it was a highlight of the entire weekend.

Want to see more about our glamping fun? Go check out the rest of the gals blogs.
(And don't worry, they probably won't complain about their periods like me.)


Jeanetta @ The Splendid Things

Heather @ Heather’s Dish
Stephanie @ The Park Wife


Monday, July 21, 2014

Back-2-School 2014 - the Annual Tear Jerker









2010



2011


2012



2013




2014



Miles began Middle School and Wylie began High School.
It is the end of an era.
No more elementary students at my house.
And I didn't walk in with them on their first day.
I don't work at their school anymore and there was no need.
They are big now. They want to go it alone (mostly.)
And so I let them.
And then I cried.






Luckily the tears didn't last long.
Look at those faces.
Who'se got time for crying with goofballs like this running amouk?

Cannot believe they are so big.
Cannot believe I have so little time left with them at home.
Cannot believe how lucky I am to have them.

Cheer's y'all!
J

















Monday, July 14, 2014

Even the Birds - Tiny Thoughts on Fretting and Desire and Prayer



Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


(from the Book of Common Prayer)


26 Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you.
Matthew 6:26The Voice (VOICE)
***
Control and Certainty and I have a complicated relationship.
Throw prayer into the mix and it is just a great big ball of hot sticky wax.
Today specifically there is a healthy dose of uncertainty in my life and I am a bit of an antsy hot mess because of the lack of control that I have over it.
Even the control I do have - the decisions I can make - are unsatisfactory to me.  
Which leaves me feeling convicted and petulant simultaneously.
I am petulant because I think I know what I want and how I want it.
I am convicted because in truth I know better. 
I know that if I will back off things will shake out as they should, because that is the pattern of my life.
***
I have a kid who has a bottomless desire for sugar. 
He has no ability to self-regulate or monitor this.
We have to be careful how we guide him about his choices because I do not want it to become a body-image issue. 
I do not want to hear him saying that we think he is Fat. 
Because we don't.
And because in our society that is death to a kids self-esteem.
And as sensitive and perceptive as he is, he doesn't need any help figuring out how he is different. He is more than well aware.
But he cannot consume the amount of sugar he wants without killing his body. 
And as his parents we have to find ways to help him curb this desire until he is old enough to curb it himself.
We have discussions about health, we save dessert for special occasions, and we say No a lot more than we would like.  Which can be annoying for all of us, but is still necessary.
Because he ask all the time.
***
I wonder if I ask all the time.
I wonder if I want more than I need at this moment.
No I don't wonder. I know.
The truth is that I would gorge myself on All the Things I Want if left to my own devices,
Killing some part of my soul unwittingly.
***
I am trying a new way of prayer.
I am trying to look for God and keep a record of all the places I find him.
I am trying to take my eyes off of what I want and instead put them onto what is already. 
Onto God and all the ways he makes himself known.
This morning as I drove to work through some back country roads I saw bird after bird flitting about on their morning hunt.
They flew over my car, and onto bar roofs, and off of telephone lines.
and I had this thought:
"Today the birds are not hungry. If the birds are hungry tomorrow I will fret about how It Will All Turn Out. But today the birds are not hungry."

Today I found God in the flitting of the birds.
I did not find control or certainty, but I found some smidgen of peace that I didn't have before.
And I know enough to know that even a smidge of peace is the better gift.

xoxo
J

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Farmhouse Pining



So we are into month two of the house being on the market and I go back and forth on daydreaming about moving to a farm and getting to decorate a farmhouse.
Some days I am too anxious and daydreaming only leads to impatience and fretting.
Some days I am at peace and daydreaming is exciting and hope-filled.


Today I am hope-filled, so I thought I would strike while the iron is hot and blog a bit about it.



We  have spotted a couple of properties that show some potential, and I play the various options in my head. One option would mean building a house, the other would mean updating an existing house.
Both would give us the opportunity to do a little farming, raising a little livestock, have a little orchard.
Neither are guarantees, they are just ideas and possibilities that I toss around when I am commuting from work, or falling asleep.
And of course they have instigated a barrage of late night pining.

Here are some of my current favorite inspirations for my wish list via Pinterest:


Screen Porch
I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, want to have a screened in porch.
Mosquitoes love me tooooo much to just have a patio or deck.


A Soaking Tub

This or a huge clawfoot.
But mostly this.
I am not a shallow kind of girl.
I need some depth in my life.
Including in my tub.


Inexpensive Painted Wood Floors


I have been dying to paint wood floors for YEARS.
I think this next move will be my chance.



An excessive amount of painted wood in all directions

There will be planking or shiplap or painted paneling by golly!




White Gas Range

You do not know how much I would love to have a gas stove again.
And a 6 burner white one is my dream.
This one may be a bit over the top, but that is what daydreaming is all about, right?


Raise up Laundry Appliances.

My back needs a break. 
And I love the built in look and extra storage.
I would do this in our laundry room if we were staying put.



A Pet Mini-Potbellied Pig


I mean, seriously.
How can you not love it?




A canoe to float in.


Can we say Anne of Green Gables and the Lady of Shallot?


A Barn for Dancing.

I am turning 40 this year. 
Sister needs a party place.

*******************************
Ok friends, there it is.
Some of  my farmhouse day dreams...

What are yours?









Friday, July 04, 2014

All American, Arkansas Grown, Arkansas Made

*this post was made possible by a day spent at the P. Allen Smiths farm, sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. They fed me lunch, gave me a t-shirt, some lip balm, and the opportunity to meet local farmers. All opinions are my own.


Happy Fourth of July friends!
Today is the day we celebrate Independence, the opportunity to make fresh starts, the freedom to work hard for our dreams, and the privilege of living a life where the choices are abundant.

To me nothing sums up the American ideal of hard work, big dreams, and go-get-em pioneer spirit, more than the life of a small farmer or small business owner, so I thought today would be the perfect day to share  a little sample of what I saw and learned about small farm farming at P. Allen Smith's farm during the Farm2Home event.




























Arkansas moniker is The Natural State, because in theory we naturally produce everything a state would need to survive the apocalypse - food, water, oil, gas, wood, art, music, literature, liquor, ice cream, presidents...

Based on what I know and what I saw at Farm2Home I would say that that claim is accurate.






Arkansas Grown is a new website that highlights and organizes the information about local Farms, Farmer's Markets, Restaurants, Retailers and other Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made services and products. The website is still new and growing, but the basic info is there and is super helpful when trying to sign up for a CSA basket or find a pick-your-own location to take the kids.

All of the farmers and retailers that were at Farm2Home (and pictured above) are listed on the their website, along with their contact info and hours of operation and crops.

I always love going to see Allen on Moss Mountain and learning about a variety of products and services, but this event was the most personal to me as Sweet Man and I hope to start a small farm of our own in the next few years. Spending the day with real life small farmers who could answer questions and give insight was such a blessing for Nathan and I. It gave us hope that our dream - with a lot of hard work - is indeed possible.

What is more American that?

Happy 4th friends!
J









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